Monday, August 14, 2017

What do you do with a 90’ tree?

I have come to the conclusion that what trees look good to you depends on the area of the country you live in. I have seen folks rave about trees made from weeds and to me they still look like weeds with something stuck on them. But then I am from the Middle Atlantic region and when I look at a forested hillside I don’t see any branches I just see foliage. When I look up my street I see no branches, just the foliage. Therefore, anywhere other than up front, puff balls seems to do a better representation in my eyes (we are just talking my opinion here).  To other areas of the county I am sure the opposite choices are more appropriate

Wanting to experience it for myself, I figured I would try the other side of the fence. I got a Scenic Express starter set and went to work. Never again! Way too much work and mess! When I was done I had 30 larger trees and 30 low pieces I may be able to “plant” in other places. (Although I followed all the included instructions, I think spray painting the tree trunks would be better.)

I had a couple of 90’ trees. Where do you put a 90’ tree on an N scale layout without it looking out of place? (I trimmed it down to ~70’.)

The second issue I have with these trees is that in spite of extra long soakings and follow-up spritzing with matte medium, they are still fragile. I have a 12’x17’ layout that was designed for operations and it is relatively high (54”) so there is no way they will survive being in areas where the operators have to  manually throw Peco sprung switches (and there are 50+ of them on the layout). That in turn means they will have to be positioned father back on the layout (which sort of defeats the reason you go to all that trouble in the first place).

P.S. I still want to try one of M.C.’s wire oak trees. I am sure they will outlast any operator’s arm! J

Friday, August 11, 2017

Don't Let Rick Touch the Paint!

Although I can muck along and complete a lot of different types of projects, there are certain things you should not let me touch. Paint is one of those things.

Micro-Mark had a sale on Doc O'Brien's Weathering Powders and that sounded like a great idea. After all, you can wash powders off if you don't like the effect. How much trouble could I really get into especially with colors like "muddy red", "grimy black", and "grungy gray". There was one problem though - I am red-green colorblind!

Previously I had dulled all my equipment by grinding up charcoal and using it to remove the shine on the freight cars. It worked pretty well but didn't exactly stick really good. Doc's powders stick a little better but it is hard to get a grip on smooth plastic, especially the trucks. I found that if you add a little water the pigments become paint and stick to the trucks pretty well and the curved steam engines.

Sending photos to my operators, I learned that some of the trucks were too red and I will have to tone them down, I will find out during our September Op Session how the other efforts fared.  All the hopper and gondolas have been worked on and practically all the trucks. I need to get some pictures on how old tank cars weathered to do them.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Masonary Work & New Friends

I decided to finally get around to put some masonary walls into some long bare locations. (I did have some issues where clearance spaces were compromised.)

I used a Chooch peel & stick "8260 Small Cut Stone Wall" (and still need to do some trimming). Here are some before and after photos:

I managed to hook up with a new friend from England. He was looking for an NS Southern heritage locomotive and I am in desperate need of thinning my collection (anyone for an extra 200 MicroTrain freight cars?  :-) ).

Andy also has a You Tube channel on his Montrose & Highland Railroad (39 episodes). It is fascinating to watch a railroad go from its early stages to finishing touches.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Where's Waldo - a Test and a Question?

Test: In the following pictures can you find:
  • 9 fireplugs,
  • 7 Mailboxes,
  • 4 Trash Cans,
  • 3 Parking Meters, and
  • 1 smashed Telephone Booth?

Question: Why would anyone put N scale details on a layout that they cannot see (only the camera can)?
The Murphy House greasy spoon on the Brooklawn circles

The PRSL electric generating station in Westville

Pine Street in Westvile

Texaco Refinery in Westville

Texaco Refinery in Westville

Olive Street in Westvile

North Woodbury

Railroad Ave & Cooper St in Woodbury

West Barber Ave in Woodbury

Downtown Camden


Cooper St in Woodbury - my red/green color blindness prevents me my seeing the fireplug in this picture

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Modern 6 Axles #$%^

All 4 axle diesels have pretty much run flawlessly from day 1 on the layout.

Early Atlas 6 axles ran well also but when I started getting the Fox Valley and Kato GE & SD70 Heritage units several track areas became serious issues.

1) One, the gap between the Westville and Brooklawn modules has been an issue from the early days (not the smoothest module transition).

2) When we did the whole house energy efficiency program it created heat problems (i.e. track expansion) in the loft. Evidently the high efficiency air conditioner ran less time which caused the loft to get hotter during the off cycles. The temperature difference between downstairs and the loft changed from a 7 degree difference to a 10-11 degree difference. Now I began to have problems on both ends of the viaduct (almost imperceptible unplanned S curves leading into the planned S curves). I didn’t notice the bad areas at first because the engines didn’t actual jam and come off the track until they reached the back of Camden curve (only accessible from the access hatch $%^&^$!).
3) When I added the switches to allow me to use the third track behind the viaduct as the 4th staging track, the track flow had a dip that caused the Fox Valley snowplows to snag on the rail joint and come to an abrupt stop. The track clearence on the snowplows is way too low.
All 4 areas have been ripped out and replaced/leveled. The new track has had the ties and rail sides painted, and been re-ballasted.
4) The layout has 55-56 switches and I try to clean them before every operating session. since most of my Peco turnouts are 40+ years old, this often requires filing and bending the point rails so they close smoothly. Before the last operating session I broke the points on one turnout. This turnout was always a touchy one, many times putting cars on the ground during switching, so I ripped it and the two tracks coming it off and replaced the turnout with another from my collection of spares. (I should have done it long ago!)

Now everything seems to be running smoothly (including the big 6 axles). 
(When winter comes and the rails contract we will see what happens then!)

Monday, May 29, 2017

WY79 Tank Sweeper and WY841 (RDG) Coal Drag

WY79/80 was a run to service the refineries in Westville and Paulsboro. Some referred to it as the "Tank Sweeper". I believe it originated from the old Reading Bulson Street yard in Camden.

My representation originates in the new 4th staging track (hidden behind the viaduct) and is 23 cars long. With 3 engines on the head end it is a beautiful 75" long sweeping train. It services the on-line Texaco Refinery in Westville and the off-line Sunoco refinery in Paulsboro.

WY841 in Woodbury heading down the Penns Grove/Deepwater branch

23 cars = 75"

Leaving Woodbury with a PRSL N5 cabin bringing up the rear.

Red Oak tower in Woodbury
The Reading usually had the coal contracts to support the Atlantic City Electric generating plants in Atlantic City and Deepwater NJ. I have pictures of it with multiple Reading RS3s on the mainline to Atlantic City but I don't model that portion of the PRSL. The Deepwater plant may (or may not) have been supplied by Reading car floats across the Deleaware but on my layout the same type Reading RS3s service it via the Deepwater/Penns Grove Branch through Woodbury.

My WY841 runs from the main staging tracks with loads south. It returns north with empties as WY840 with the same Reading equipment on the front and back ends. Yard staging limits this train to 16-20 cars (5').

WY841 over Timber Creek entering Westville with a pair of Reading RS-3s on the head end

Passing Olive Street in south Westville

Entering North Woodbury

Drone view

Edith Avenue in north Woodbury

Passing Hollaway Lumber (current site of the Colonial Diner) in north Woodbury